Baldness is a condition in which hair is lost on the head and also rarely the body. It occurs most commonly in older people and in men, however it can also affect children and women. The most common form of baldness is known as male pattern baldness. This is a form of genetic hair loss that affects around half of all men over the age of 50. Male pattern baldness can also affect younger men and it can be a very distressing condition to live with.
Male pattern baldness is easily recognisable because it is specific to the head, and because the hair is lost only at the front round to the crown of the head. Typically, men with male pattern baldness do not lose the hair at the back or sides of the head.
What causes baldness?
There are many things that can cause hair loss. One common cause is a medical treatment such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy. The type of baldness caused by these medical treatments is known as anagen effluvium. It is usually temporary, with the hair growing back again after treatment has stopped.
The most common type of baldness, male pattern baldness, is a genetic condition. This type of baldness is not caused by external factors such as medical treatment, stress or temporary illness. It is caused by a male hormone called DHT (dihydrotestosterone), which is a form of testosterone. Essentially, DHT attacks the hair follicles and makes them weaken and shrink until they stop growing.
Is baldness reversible?
It's true that some types of baldness are reversible. However, these tend to be caused by temporary conditions or external factors such as medical treatments or stress. Because male pattern baldness is a permanent genetic condition, the hair loss caused by it cannot be reversed permanently. However, many men can halt and reverse their hair loss using specific medical treatments taken everyday (see below).
Other types of baldness such as alopecia totalis are permanent conditions and not reversible at all. To find out more, visit the NHS website.
There are currently two medicines in the UK endorsed by the NHS as viable treatments for male pattern baldness. These treatments are finasteride and minoxidil.
Finasteride (i.e. Propecia)
Finasteride is a prescription medicine used in the treatment of male pattern baldness. It is the active ingredient of the popular hair loss tablet Propecia. It is also available as a generic medicine, under the label Finasteride.
Finasteride/Propecia comes as a tablet and should be taken every day with no breaks. It works by reducing the conversion of testosterone to DHT, or reducing the levels of DHT, which helps to stop the hair from falling out. Finasteride can only be taken by men suffering from male pattern baldness. It is not suitable for women suffering from baldness, or for anybody suffering from other types of hair loss.
Taken correctly (one tablet a day, every day), finasteride can be extremely effective in reversing the effects of male pattern baldness. In one study, 90% of men who took finasteride once a day for six months stopped their hair loss, and 60% even experienced regrowth of lost hair.
Finasteride is not a permanent solution to hair loss, so any positive effects will be reversed if treatment is stopped. If you are suffering from male pattern baldness and are interested in taking Propecia, visit our secure online hair loss clinic.
Minoxidil (i.e. Regaine)
Minoxidil is another treatment that has been proven to reverse hair loss in men suffering from male pattern baldness. Unlike finasteride, minoxidil is not a prescription treatment. You can buy minoxidil in high street pharmacies and online. It is most often available under the brand name Regaine.
Minoxidil comes as a lotion or foam. It has to be rubbed into balding areas of the scalp every day to have an effect upon hair loss. It can be used by men and women who are suffering from hereditary hair loss, and is also sometimes prescribed as a treatment for alopecia areata. However, if you are suffering from alopecia areata (where the hair falls out in patches), you should visit a doctor. You should not self-medicate with shop-bought minoxidil.
When used every single day, minoxidil can be very effective at reversing hair loss in men with male pattern baldness. However, it is not quite as effective as finasteride (Propecia). One study showed that using minoxidil led to improvement in 60% of men who used it, compared to 90% of men who used finasteride.
To learn more about baldness and hair loss, visit our online hair loss clinic